Argentinian man lines out for Tyrone club

By Ronan McSherry

Martin Lopez Solder from Buenos Aires a Gaelic games fanatic made his debut for Gortin on Sunday. He was thrilled to pull on the St Patrick’s jersey when he came on as a substitute in their Reserve league game against Aghyaran. Despite losing Martin is savouring his first appearance in a 15-aside game as up to now he has been involved in nine-aside matches in his native Argentina. With a background in rugby he discovered his home club was originally as its title suggests, a hurling club.

The 36-year-old explained, “’Hurling Club’ where I played rugby got its name because it was founded by Irish immigrants in 1922. However it had to stop playing hurling during World War II as they were unable to get hurleys from Ireland. It then became a rugby and hockey club. I played rugby with the club from I was six years old to 23 but had to stop to commit to my medical studies.

I started Gaelic sports, both football and hurling, with a few friends in the club. The rugby were second generation Irish and told me about Gaelic football. I saw it on video and loved it. It is a mix of all the sports I know; rugby, basketball, football and handball. We now have five teams playing each other at 9-aside.

Martin set about getting the best advice from the Ireland and made contact with the GAA in Ulster. He hooked up with coaching officer Roger Keenan a Gortin stalwart.

It is hard to get people to play Gaelic football in Argentina so we are taking the game into the schools. There are a lot of Irish people working in Argentina who help us. I got in contact with Roger three years ago and came over for a visit. Him and his wife Margaret and their family are so passionate about GAA. It is amazing here. The pitches are fantastic and the love for the club is amazing. It is like your home. In Argentina other clubs think we are different because that is how we see our club, like family.

Gortin GAA club is almost like my family now. They have been so welcoming. I have had to get used to the pitch and much more running compared to 9-aside played on half a rugby pitch which quite small. Here the tackling is intense and shoulder to shoulder. I like that as that is similar to rugby. I love the training and want to learn more so I can bring it back to Argentina”.

While Martin only played in the latter stages of Sunday’s game he was thrilled.

I was half forward but don’t mind where I play. I was so happy to get on. I plan to stay here until November and go then to work in a hospital in Spain. It has been a fantastic experience learning about GAA here.”

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